Why is Band (or Orchestra) so important for students?

Why is Band (or Orchestra) so important for students?

Here’s an interesting question, which on first blush seemed to be along the lines of a “what inspired you” type of email I sometimes get. But when I answered the email, I realized there was more I wanted to say.

First off, the email:

Subject: How has playing the bass clarinet benefitted your life

Message: I am currently writing a paper on passions, and how I think they may benefit me and others throughout our lives,. And though I am a bass clarinetist at heart, my paper is about the benefits of joining concert/marching band.

I was wondering if I could get a quote from you speaking of how YOUR passion changed your life, and how you think joining band at a young age could change anyone's lives.

Well, I never actually was in marching band—which I’ll never know whether I would have loved or hated—but I was in many concert bands during my high school years.

I personally prefer Concert Band to Orchestra, mainly because it’s where I got my start in school and at summer camp at Interlochen. Overall, I like that concert band doesn’t seem to take itself as seriously as an orchestra does. They came from different needs in society — Orchestra was for dressing up, and having a cultural/artistic experience in a concert hall. Band was often ceremonial or incidental music for other occasions, like a parade, or the opening of some park somewhere. Mainly, though, I like band because the repertoire brings back a lot of great memories of growing up, and I like that it’s usually unpretentious.

But regardless of joining a band or orchestra, one thing remains the same.

Playing in ensembles is unlike any other school experience: it’s not a sport, because there are no winners or losers. It’s not like theater, because there are no “starring roles” or “bit parts”.

You have 3 or 5 or 10 people all playing the same part, and the success of a piece of music or a concert is dependent on everyone doing the best they can, blending and playing in tune with one another to sound like “One Big Clarinet” (or Flute or Trombone). Imagine a baseball game with 10 pitchers. Yeah, no.

But in band, that’s exactly the point!

Removing/deprioritizing ensemble music from school programs has all sorts of unintended negative effects. And there are tons of articles showing how music benefits the mind and the spirit of students. But anyone who’s ever spent time in a band room could tell you this.

Keep music in schools!


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Ellie jelly

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